Fire lookouts hold a special place in the minds of mountain lovers. Perhaps representing the ultimate in mountain accommodations, these mountain top sentry posts are usually in excellent spots for a reason…
Fire lookouts hold a special place in the minds of mountain lovers. Perhaps representing the ultimate in mountain accommodations, these mountain top sentry posts are usually in excellent spots for a reason. You can see forever.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) fire lookout program was based on a simple concept; creating a system of manned lookouts across the national forest to spot and triangulate forest fires. Constructing these humble structures proved to be a challenge; as every board, window, screw and nail had to be transported to the top of a mountain by truck, mule train or on foot, or a combination of all three.
These days getting to Sugarloaf is just a short drive from the Wenatchee valley, but come prepared, the drive up the winding flanks of Sugarloaf Mountain gains several thousand feet of elevation regardless of which way you approach the summit.
The weather looked ominous, thick fronts of clouds swept over the hills, obscuring the views down valley. So much for the view. Finally winding through burnt trees, grasses and wildflowers near the summit, we arrived to stormy skies and winds.
Packing a 6 month old and camera gear along the windy, rainy ridge was easier than anticipated; our little girl was all smiles and wide eyes. It was the biggest thing she had ever seen! Soon enough, hail began to mix with the rain, signaling a grudging retreat to the car.
Thoroughly soaked and glad to be in a nice warm vehicle, our excitement at the weather was tempered by the sadness of missing a view that stretched from the Enchantments to Glacier Peak, bordered by the Chelan Mountains and east to the expansive hill country of the Waterville Plateau and beyond Wenatchee to the Clockum mountains and Blewitt Pass. Sugarloaf Mountain hosts one of the last remaining manned fire lookouts for a reason, because its right in the middle of everything and you can see forever. Usually.
Getting There: Sugarloaf Mountain is (usually) approachable from three directions; via the Chumstick, Eniat and the Chiwawa valleys. Stop by your local USFS office or check online for updated road and trail conditions. As always be prepared for mountain travel, even though the car is a short walk away.
Don’t Forget: Pack for cooler and usually windy conditions and be sure to bring three important fire lookout items: A camera, a pair of binoculars and a map of the surrounding area to point out far off peaks and features.
Local’s Tip: Sugarloaf Lookout is a manned lookout. That means someone lives there during the summer season. Have some respect and don’t enter the lookout unless invited and keep pets on a leash. A friendly gift of fresh fruits and veggies or special baked treat for our lucky USFS friends working the lookout is a welcome change from their provisioned foodstuffs.